Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
• Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, and Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your number. will bring you information.
• Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends greetings
• Mark, and also Jesus who is called Justus (these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision), send greetings and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.
• Epaphras, who is one of your number, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers (he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.
• Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings, and also Demas.
• Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house
• Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
• I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.
This last chapter of Colossians has two distinct, yet related parts. The first part is the culmination of Paul’s drilling in on what it means to follow Christ, to be a Christian. If you remember our walk through Colossians over the last couple months, you remember that the Colossians were getting off track. There were people drawing them away from following Jesus, enforcing LAW instead of grace. Rituals and the worship of angels and a lot of whacked out craziness had crept into the church, and so Paul focused on Jesus – it is all about Jesus. From there Paul talked in broad terms about how our lives would be – should be – transformed by the power of God at work in us. Paul then brought it closer to home, reminding us, as we looked at last week, how our relationship with Jesus would affect – should affect – the interpersonal relationships we have. Paul concludes this discussion with reminding us how our transformation to Christ-likeness will happen – should happen – in the three arenas of life: our thoughts, our actions, and our speech.
You have heard me talk about those three arenas, and I do that because of passages like this. Paul starts by saying “devote yourselves to prayer”. Prayer is an attitude, it is internal. It resides in our mind. If we fill our minds with stuff of the world, stuff that adds nothing to who we are, our spiritual senses become dull. If all you ate was Jello, good tasting yet no nutritional value whatsoever, you would shrivel up and die from malnutrition. The same goes for our spiritual life – if we don’t feed it, it will shrink and become useless, ineffective. We have to care for our spiritual life. In that arena we are involved in spiritual warfare, and who in their right mind, would go in to that place with tiddly winks when our adversary brings all the forces of hell with him.
There are people who willingly give up that battle. They have no interest in spiritual things – the “self” is the only god they want, or think they need. But you and I are not like that – we have had a vision of God’s perspective. And what you see, you can’t unsee. That unseen world we have seen, changes us – and so we follow Christ and let our minds dwell on those eternal things in prayer.
The second arena is actions – “Conduct yourselves with wisdom” as Paul puts it. We have heard lots of messages and read lots of material about love, about how our actions flow out of who we are before God. We took time last week to talk about how we are what we do, and we do what we are, in becoming all the Christ has created us to be and do. The choice to conduct ourselves with wisdom presents itself many times throughout the day. Paul says that there are many good things, but we need to focus on the best things, the things that count for eternity. How are you doing in this arena? Are you winning, or losing?
The third arena is speech. “Let your speech always be with grace”. While people catch more of what we do, than what we say, there are a large number of verses in the New Testament that challenge us to win in the arena of speech. It is so easy to be critical and negative. We judge so quickly, and yet the Scriptures again and again caution us that those who judge will be judged. Grace – let your speech be seasoned with grace. In the arena of Paul’s time, many of the battles were by individuals. In our lives today, the biggest battle we face is our self, by our self. Questions of integrity, choices, baggage, past present and future all make this a difficult battle. But we are not alone – or don’t need to be.
We are in the midst of the Stanley Cup finals – Chicago verses Tampa Bay. Roughrider football kicks off at the end of the month. While it is not always inherent or acknowledged, all around us are teams. And when the Riders hit the field, our understanding of “team” is often too short-sighted, too small.
What goes into a football team? Just how big is the team?
So when we talk about “church”, whether we use the analogy of the body or of a building, each part working in conjunction with the others around them, we have this sense of individuals with gifts and strengths on one hand, and the unity of the community – Community is unity of the individuals, you can’t have community without unity. The word is literally in the word “community”. They say there is no “I” in TEAM, but they are wrong. First they are wrong because if you look at the capital letter “A” there is a little “I” in there; secondly, they are wrong because every letter of team is actually an “I”. A team is not some homogenous unit or group of people – that is the definition of a blob. Church is not just a blob, though we see in many larger churches, especially, groups of people who attend who have no substance, who don’t bring anything to the community, and who take very little if anything away from the community – they are the gelatinous blobs of the church. But the call of Christ is not to be a gummy worm, but to take up the cross and deny ourselves. We don’t live for our self; we live for something bigger than just us. We live in a kingdom that reaches not just around the world, but deep into the past and far into the future.
Paul lists a number of people at the end of his letter; most are known to the Colossians. Some he gives credit as encourages, some share his chains, others he sends as messengers. There is even a guy that he challenges the Colossians to help keep him on the straight and narrow. Paul closes most of his letters with these kinds of greetings. It tells us that we are on a team. We have different roles, and bring different talents and gifts, and we are at different stages on that team, but we are all moving in the same direction. This means we seek ways to encourage and to accept encouragement. We seek ways to give our input to the direction of our local team, and seek ways to help the team move forward. The alternative is to be a blob, a gelatinous mass devoid of beneficial substance. Each time you see Jello or something gummy, ask yourself, “Is this me?” or am I on the field with the rest of the team.